Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
|Print List Price:||£6.95|
Save £1.15 (17%)
On Violence (Harvest Book) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
|Length: 114 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled|
Kindle e-ReadersKindle Fire TabletsFire Phones
Customers who bought this item also bought
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Arendt drives home her point with extensive references to 60s/70s America and the French student revolutions as well as the Marxian struggle between labour and capital. One of the earlier reviews cast Arendt as a New Left basher. I thought she bashed all apologists while also recognising that violence may be a last resort for getting one's voice heard when other avenues are shut or ineffective. No doubt there's a lot of other material out there on this and perhaps reading some might help provide perspective for newbies, like me, to the topic. Nevertheless I think Arendt's book is worth reading.
Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" in the context of Adolf Eichmann who had a key role in the holocaust. As a Jew who had fled Germany she was (it seems to me) clearly moved by the reality of violence; by the need to have as little of it as possible; and by a desire not to commend those who like Fanon and Qtub advocated the kind of terrorist violence we are defending ourselves against today. But she also says that no-one's yet come up with an alternative to violence for settling our incompatible conflicts; the trouble with peace is you need armies to enforce it. This whole argument sounds rather like the Orwellian "war is peace" to me.
I think it is a worthwhile, stimulating, very well written book - but of course of its time.
I thought some other reviews expected more of the work that was realistic - I don't myself expect a relatively short work to cover everything or to fully reference everything; if one wants that aspect of Arendt's work one can go to her longer publications.
This is the best possible book to buy if you want to know how and why violence occurs in human affairs.
There are several reasons I'm not particularly impressed with this pamphlet. The first is that the author basically makes a straw-man of her opponents. The views attributed to the amorphously defined "New Left" - such as that violence founds society, that it is a means to achieve immortality, that violence is natural, that a primordial will to dominate is fundamental - are not properly sourced and basically do not occur in the literature Arendt is implicitly referring to (Marcuse, Sartre, Fanon, Negri, Situationism, etc). She rarely references her opponents at all, ignoring their theories - the only exception being Fanon, who is quoted selectively and without any reference to his ontological and structural theories. She thus offers an argument for a view (that violence is instrumental, not constitutive) that her opponents would probably not dispute.
The impression left is that Arendt does not understand the kind of structural critique of liberalism/capitalism which New Left authors pursue. She takes a lot for granted in her account, naturalising and glorifying existing institutions, and often seems unable to think outside their boundaries even to the degree necessary to make sense of opposing viewpoints. The real quarrel with the New Left is not so much about violence as about the structural critique of the status quo as systematically oppressive, and the relation of radical antagonism which results from this critique, but Arendt mis-perceives it as a dispute about violence, reconstructing her opponents' views by cross-reading their conclusions with her own assumptions and then arguing against what she assumes their view must be.
The crucial distinction between violence and power is very similar to the distinctions made by authors such as Kropotkin, Ward, Buber, Clastres, Guattari, Negri, Holloway and Agamben between the social principle, or creative power, and the political/command/negative principle. The main difference is that Arendt arbitrarily and clumsily tries to annex the liberal-democratic status quo to the former category (despite admitting at various points the importance of problems such as bureaucratisation and police brutality). This requires, of course, that the violence of liberal states be mystified, and Arendt's concepts of authority and power (especially the latter's elision of the distinction between power-over and power-with or -to) serves precisely this purpose. Arendt seeks a revitalised political community based on Ancient Rome (though with this system's slavery, misogyny, expansionist warfare and gladiatorial fixation apparently ignored). The result is an asymmetrical treatment of the violence of the system and its opponents, posing as an argument about violence in general - a "global-local" in Shiva's terms, the particularity of the western state dressed up as universality. The essay is also blatantly Eurocentric and structurally racist, both in its indirect imputation of "human" absolutes from specifically American/European perceptions and epistemologies, and in its explicit attacks on radical black movements.
I'd advise that Clastres' "Archaeology of Violence" offers a more empirically-informed account of the social functions of violence, that readers interested in the New Left should not trust Arendt's account and should instead or also read texts such as Marcuse's "Essay on Liberation" to gain a sense of this movement, and that readers looking for works on non-violence might be better served by Tolstoy, Havel or Starhawk.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews